Locals hold the edge in Tshwane

European Tour

This week sees the European Tour’s South African swansong, the Tshwane (Tswa-nay) Open, take place at the Copperleaf Golf and Country Estate’s Ernie Els Club.

The event is the eighth and final one set in South Africa on the 2013/14 European Tour schedule, dating back to November’s SA Open, and once again the local contingent will take some beating.

Of the seven tournaments staged in the country so far, South African golfers have won five of them – a combination of the slightly weaker fields that grace these often less lucrative early-season events and the familiarity and confidence with which South Africans – traditionally a strong force in the golfing world – are able to approach events on their home soil.

George Coetzee, already a winner at the Joburg Open in February and coming off a last-16 loss to eventual champion Jason Day at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship last week, has been installed as a 7/1 favourite this week, while his countryman Thomas Aiken, who won the Africa Open in East London two weeks ago, is right behind him with odds of 14/1.

Certainly these two will be leading the charge of the local contingent, and should provide the visiting Europeans with their strongest competition.

Visitors backed to do well include the likes of Romain Wattel (16/1), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (20/1), Danny Willett (22/1) and Ross Fisher (28/1).

One of the internationals who has prevented a South African clean sweep on home soil this season is Morten Orum Madsen, winner of the SA Open late last year.

The Dane is back in action this week, and is being favoured at odds of 33/1.

While the East London Golf Club, which hosted the Africa Open two weeks ago, is the shortest course on the regular European Tour schedule, Copperleaf is the longest, measuring just under 8000 yards when playing off its championship tees.

The course has four par fives, all of which measure over 600 yards each, so the bigger hitters will enjoy an advantage this week – even though proper course strategy at Copperleaf is not simply a case of pitching up and bombing it as far as possible down the fairway.

There are a number of bunkers and water hazards spread out over the course as well as several run-off areas around the greens, making for some potentially tricky recovery shots.

In all likelihood, Sunday’s winner will have mastered both his short and long game on the way to the title.

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